Opens fire on three houses in two villages
Sixteen Afghans were killed by a rogue American soldier who walked off his base and opened fire on them in their homes in the early hours of Sunday, said Afghan and Western sources.
An AFP reporter counted 16 bodies — including women and children — in three houses in two villages of Panjwayi district in the southern province of Kandahar.
A senior Afghan government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, put the death toll at 15 — “nine children, three women and three men are dead”, he said, adding that Afghan President Hamid Karzai was “very angry”.
The shooting is likely to worsen relations between Washington and Kabul, which already plunged to an all-time low last month after the burning of Korans at a military base near the Afghan capital.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said it had arrested a soldier “in connection to an incident that resulted in Afghan casualties in Kandahar province”, without giving a figure for the dead or wounded.
“In one house, I saw 10 people, including women and children killed and burned in one room. Another woman was lying dead at the entrance of the house,” the AFP reporter said from the scene. Among the dead were “at least two children, two or three years old”. One other person died in a second house in Alkozai village while four more were killed in nearby Najeeban, he said.
In one house, an elderly woman screamed: “May God kill the only son of Karzai, so he feels what we feel.”
The deputy commander of U.S.-led NATO forces, Lieutenant General Adrian Bradshaw, expressed “profound regrets and dismay at the actions apparently taken by one coalition member in Kandahar province”.
Afghan and Western sources said the rampage began after a U.S. soldier walked off his base in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The incident comes just weeks after the Koran burning ignited violent anti-U.S. demonstrations in which some 40 people died. During the protests, six American troops were killed when Afghan soldiers turned their weapons on their allies.
But there was no word on what might have motivated the soldier's actions in Kandahar.
The Afghan government official said Mr. Karzai had dispatched the Army Chief of Staff to head an investigation into the incident.
Washington and Kabul are negotiating a long-term strategic partnership deal governing their relations after U.S.-led combat troops pull out in 2014.